The fire at Hutchins Barbecue and Catfish, McKinney started on New Year’s Eve at around 9:45 p.m. in a low section of the ceiling. It quickly spread to the attic and the roof.

2020, for Hutchins Barbecue, wasn’t actually all that painful. Barbecue is perfect for preparing in large quantities. Packaged in a series of aluminum platters for curbside pick-up and delivery, it holds up beautifully. It fits in a world of increasing takeout. In fact, before the fire, Hutchins Barbecue’s two locations weathered the storm. They have a robust, loyal following, plenty of street cred, and an ambitious catering business coming from the Frisco location. By May 2020, sales surpassed May 2019. 

“It was amazing that we rebounded quickly,” owner Tim Hutchins says. “We were able to create a good system on takeout, then we reopened in June. Our numbers were growing and growing and growing.

“We were almost through 2020, and then a few hours later, I got that call. What a note to end on.” 

By 10:30 on the night of New Year’s Eve, Tim had been notified, and the fire department was on scene. All in all, the fire at Hutchins Barbecue affected a 10-by-10 square-foot area, causing enough damage that much of the roof and attic will have to be replaced. Their sprinkler system and the fire department’s quick response prevented it from being much worse. Ever since, Hutchins’ McKinney location has been closed. 

Tim’s father, Roy Hutchins started the Hutchins Barbecue story in 1978, when he operated a roadside stand and smokehouse in Princeton, Texas. In 1991, Tim’s two oldest brothers came on as partners. Tim, the youngest, took on the mantle in 2005. 

In all that time, there have been plenty of obstacles, “everything from bankruptcy to the business itself,” he says. “We’ve weathered storms.” It isn’t even the first fire; last month’s was the second fire in ten years.

The first fire happened in 2012, Tim recalls, and it was emotionally devastating. At that point, they only had one location, and they hadn’t made a big name for themselves yet. “We didn’t know if customers would come back.”

These days, Hutchins Barbecue is in a different position. They have their name, a loyal following, and the Frisco location. Even though Tim is more hopeful this time, it’s still a painful blow. In 2017, the McKinney location got a massive remodel. They expanded, added another pit room, opened up the dining room, and Tim says he finally felt satisfied with it. 

“I loved the way it operated,” he says. 

More than likely, the fire department told him, it was an electrical fire. When we spoke, he was still waiting on the final determination. The McKinney location is still not open. Tim says they were in a holding phase for the last 27 days: taking out contents, cleaning, handling smoke damage, and assessing their next steps. After that, now comes the real work: rebuilding. 

“Whenever there’s a fire, you’ve got to peel back the onion on the building. You don’t know what you’re getting into until you get into it.” Last time they ended up tearing off the back of the restaurant. It’s impossible to know what to expect this time. 

The community has also been supportive. Whenever Tim looks on social media, he sees messages of support from Hutchins Barbecue fans. “They’re ready for us to get back open,” he confirms. “We have a huge community now. A lot of people reached out with condolences, and we told them we’ll be back open. We’re pushing for the end of April. For sure by my birthday.”

Meanwhile, the Frisco location is up and running, and many of the McKinney staff members have moved there for the time being. Out of a staff of about 160, they only had to furlough 20 part-time employees. 

Tim is also hopeful that this impromptu merger will lead to collaboration and new ideas. He says with the best of both locations together, he hopes that “over the next few weeks, they’ll create the ultimate Hutchins experience.” 

“I’m confident we’ll get through this,” he says. “We’ll persevere.”

In the meantime, if you’re craving a Texas Twinkie, Hutchins Barbecue, Frisco is there for you.